OK, I’m addicted now

Worth Dying For by Lee ChildSo, I got to the grocery store to pick up a prescription and discover the pharmacy doesn’t open until 9:00 am.  It’s currently 8:45 am, so I have a choice:  drive home (5 minutes), do something for 5 minutes, then drive back (another 5 minutes).  Or, I could just hang out until the pharmacy opens.  I chose the second option.

To kill the time, I went to the book section and picked up the first thing that caught my eye:  Worth Dying For, a novel by an author I’d never heard of before: Lee Child.  By 9:00 am, I was hooked.  So much so, that I immediately went home and bought the Kindle version and spent every free minute over the next several days reading the rest of the book.

Since Worth Dying For is the fourteenth book in the series, I bought the first book (The Killing Fields) as soon as I finished, and pretty much read it straight through.  Then I stopped, because I do have to get other stuff to get done in my life.

Granted, these are “guilty pleasure” books; full of action and intrigue, but not particularly intellectual.  His writing style reminds me of Louis L’Amour, one of my other favorite authors:  he’s great at describing the scene and makes you feel like you’re really there; short on conversation and character development but long on action.  The hero of the series, Jack Reacher, is just a guy who wants to be left alone but isn’t afraid to use his unique talents to take care of himself and help others.  He’s the “everyman” that every guy wishes he could be.  He’s probably a sociopath since he kills and maims without remorse, but the people certainly deserve it (as they say in the South, “He needed killin’.” is a valid defense).

Guys will like these books, girls probably won’t.  If you like thrillers then Child is an author you may like, but be forewarned:  you may get hooked!

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Meet Yosemite Sam

Yosemite Sam, my Kindle. Yes, that's really what I call it. You have to name it something, so why not something interesting rather than the pedestrian "John's Kindle"?

I know the iPad is supposed to be the greatest thing since sliced bread, but since I got a Kindle for my birthday this year it’s clear that the Kindle is a better fit for me.  I wanted a device for doing precisely one thing:  reading books.  No games, no videos, no surfing the web; just reading.  For that activity, the Kindle is a half-pound of literary awesomeness.

Why do I say that?  Well, there are lots of reviews of the Kindle on-line, so I won’t repeat those here. Instead, here’s what I like about the Kindle.

It’s small.  Really small.  Even with a case, I can throw it in my computer bag and hardly know it’s there.  I can tuck it under my are when I go out to eat, and still be able to pick up my burrito and drink at Qdoba.

The battery lasts for freakin’ ever.  I’ve left it off the charger for over a week without getting below 75% of a full charge, and long reading sessions (6-8 hours) hardly cause the battery meter to move.  You could go on a trip for a week and forget your charger and as long as you left the radio off most of the time, you’d be fine.

E-ink makes a display that is perfect for reading.  It really does look like a printed page, and it works fine in full sunlight.  Admittedly, on the Kindle 2 it looks a bit like a dirty page, but it’s still quite readable.  The Kindle 3 is supposed to be better, but it’s perfectly acceptable.  Laying by the pool in Monterrey reading Cannery Row?  Oh yeah, perfect!

You can store a ton of books on it.  Want to carry the ESV Study Bible (a brick of a book if ever there was one) with you without getting a hernia?  No problem with the Kindle.  You can load up on books so that you always have something available to read.  And with a 3G connection to Amazon, you can always buy something new.

There is an amazing amount of free reading material available on-line from places like Feedbooks.  I’ve just barely scratched the surface of what’s available, but already I’ve been able to find some real jewels.

Finally, after you’ve used it for a few hours, you forget that you’re reading on an electronic device.  It really does disappear and allow you to connect with the author just like you were reading a physical book.

Except that it’s better than a book.  It always lays flat, so you can set it down to read it without it flopping closed and losing your place.  You can lay down and read without it being awkward and heavy to hold.  Want to mark a paragraph to remember later?  Use the joystick to mark the text then slurp it up on your computer later.

Then there’s this:  you’re reading a book on your Kindle at home, but then you get stuck at the doctor’s office because they’re running late and you’re really not into reading the August 2002 issue of Field and Stream.  No problem, just get out your Android phone , fire up the Kindle app, and pick up reading where you left off on the Kindle.  When you get home that evening, your Kindle has synced up with your phone and you can pick up where you left off at the doctor’s office.

See?  It’s better than a book!

OK, now for the negatives.  While it’s great, it’s not perfect.

My biggest complaint is that some authors (or publishers) just don’t get it.  Some books aren’t available on the Kindle, which complete mystifies me.  These day’s, it’s not like publishers are printing books by arranging individual letters by hand on a composing stick; the data exists on a computer somewhere so it’s not that hard to provide a Kindle version.

Of course, even if you do provide a Kindle version, you can still do it badly.  I’ve read a couple of books where either the formatting was terrible, or the footnotes weren’t hyperlinked into the text.  I’ve played around with formatting books for the Kindle, and this isn’t exactly rocket surgery, so these guys should get better software people.

Finally, my biggest pet peeve is that in some cases I’d actually like to buy the physical book to add to my library.  If I do that, why not throw in the Kindle version for a few extra bucks?  That way I can leave the physical book at home and read on the Kindle, and I still have the physical book to read after the zombie apocalypse.

But still, it’s a great way to read.  Having a Kindle has given me more opportunity to read (since there’s so much available, and it’s so easy to take with me), plus more encouragement to read (part of that is because it’s a gadget to play with).

So, it’s time to grab Yosemite Sam and go read!

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How to kill an elevator

You'd be tired too if you climbed the stairs a hundred time a day.The building I work in was originally built by Hewlett-Packard Company as a multi-purpose building:  it could be used as office space, or it could be used as manufacturing.  To allow use for manufacturing, there were some differences in the architecture from a standard office building:  the floors were much more substantial (to accommodate manufacturing equipment) and the ceilings were much higher (I’m guessing 15 feet or more).

One result of this is that although I work on the second floor, you have to climb two flights of stairs to get there, roughly equivalent to going up to the third floor.  For moving people, equipment, and supplies to the second floor, there were two large, heavy-duty elevators at each end of the building.  In the over 25 years I’ve worked here, I think I’ve taken the elevator may a couple dozen times, usually when I’m moving some equipment between floors.  But I probably go up and down between floors at least a dozen times a day:  going to meetings, to the cafeteria, to the credit union, and so forth.  I always take the stairs; I never take the elevator.  Almost none of the people I work with do either.

Since the company I work for doesn’t occupy the entire building, we decided to lease out half of the second floor to another company.  Because the building wasn’t designed to be subdivided, we have this awkward arrangement where we have their space, our space, and shared space.  One of these shared spaces is a stairwell and an elevator.

The company that leased the space employs mostly younger people:  I would guess that the vast majority are younger than 30.  This is in contrast to the people I work with, most of whom I would guess are 40 or older.

This leads to a curious situation:  the kids (well, they look like kids to me!) from the other company almost always take the elevator.  Often a group of three or four of us middle-aged guys will arrive in the shared space at the same time as three or four of the kids; while we head for the stairs, they head for the elevator.  I find it ironic that we’ll traverse the stairs to the second floor, at the same time as the kids, who should literally be able run circles around us, will take the elevator.

Well, the elevator wasn’t happy about this.  When the other company moved in it went from ten to twenty trips between floors each day, to a hundred or more trips.  After several months it had had enough and started getting stuck between floors.  It’s now out of commission for the foreseeable future, and kids have joined us middle-aged guys on the stairs.

It’ll do the young whipper-snappers some good.

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What’s wrong with America: Part 831

Mmm ... tasty!I see these things everywhere, but especially packed inside electronic components.  They’re silica gel, used as a desiccant to keep things dry.  Every one of them I’ve ever seen has “DO NOT EAT” printed on them.

Now, I have to ask:  why?  Is this really a problem?  Are there really people who say,

“Look, Buford, those nice people at newegg.com  packed a little snack in with each of those 500G byte Western Digital disk drives we bought for the home theater PC build!  I’m a little hungry, so I believe I’m going to have one.  You want one, too?  I’ve got plenty …”

Probably not.

I’m sure the warning exists because of one of my favorite rules in life:  “If you see something that doesn’t make any sense at all, there was probably a lawyer involved.”  Someone, somewhere ate one of these, got sick, sued someone else, and won a lot of money.  So now we have “DO NOT EAT” printed on all of them.

Oddly enough, my point is not that there are too many lawyers in America (that’s a whole ‘nother topic), but that there are people dumb enough to eat this stuff when it’s obviously not intended as food.  Maybe a lot of them.  Question:  should people for whom this is a real temptation be allowed to vote?

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OK, this is nice, but …

I guess you have to start somewhere.

Over two years ago I bought this domain, with the intention of (among other things) setting up a blog.  Since then I’ve waited and procrastinated. I think I was waiting until I had something interesting to write about. Or maybe I was waiting until I had a really cool theme to use. Or maybe I’m just lazy.

So, how much longer would I want to wait? Another year? Two?

Maybe if I just start, I’ll come up with something interesting to say.  Maybe somewhere along the line I find a cool theme.  Maybe I’ll overcome my procrastination.  Maybe it will be fun!

Maybe having the blog set up, even in its plain-Jane, pretty much just out of the box state, is a good-enough start. Everything has to start somewhere.

I’m starting here.

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